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How to Become a Digital Nomad: A Step-By-Step Guide

Do you want to see the world? If the answer is yes, why wither away at your office, pounding LaCroix to take the edge off your wanderlust?

If you’ve ever dreamed of making memories abroad while making money, becoming a digital nomad could be right for you. You don’t have to wait for your PTO to pile up to see the world—you can hit the Baja surf before your morning conference call or clear your inbox over aperitivo in Trastevere. You just need to be strategic.

Before you dig out your BÉIS Travel Fanny Pack, bikini, passport, and the courage to coyly ask that Parisian barista for the WiFi password, check out our guide to answering “how to become a digital nomad?”

What is a Digital Nomad?

The term “digital nomad” refers to long-term travelers who work a remote job with the help of digital tools.1 Digital nomads rely on modern technology like laptops, smartphones, and tablets to work from anywhere, leveraging internet connections at traveler-welcome zones like coworking spaces, hotel lobbies, and coffee shops when they aren’t chasing hotspots at beach bars in Phuket.

For some, there was a time when digital nomad life meant happy-go-lucky freelancer, reading all of the best travel books, unbeholden to time zones or landlords, surfing for the next gig on a sandy keyboard while a group of rowdy students on their gap year played Never Have I Ever in the hostel common room.

But not all remote workers look the same—especially not in 2021.

According to a recent study:2 

  • 36% of  remote workers make a living through freelance work
  • 21% work for one company
  • Nearly one-third of nomads own their own online business

Sounds like a plan? Follow the steps below to become a digital nomad. 

Step 1: Find Remote Work

If you love your current job, ask your supervisor about going remote full-time. Assure them that you will have high-speed internet and set up a reasonable schedule that takes any time zone differences into account. 

Looking to pivot into a new career once you land or feeling tempted by the flexibility of freelance? Spend some time thinking about your specific skills and experiences and how they can be of value to companies and clients.

The Best Jobs for Digital Nomadism

Almost half of digital nomads are millennials, but remote workers come from all over the world and every demographic, so it’s no wonder that remote work itself is incredibly diverse.

According to studies, the number of Americans who identified as digital workers rose by nearly 50% between 2019 and mid-2020.3 With almost 11 million digital nomads from the US and many companies shifting to allow hybrid and remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital nomad lifestyle has expanded in scope to include members of the workforce who had previously been doomed to the drudgery of a static 9-to-5.4

Digital nomads aren’t just dreamy beach bums who picked up a tarot card at a party one night and wound up in Puerto Escondido. 

Here are some popular types of freelance and remote jobs:

  • Writers
  • Graphic Designers
  • Marketers
  • Social Media Management
  • Virtual Assistants
  • Programmers

As soon as you narrow in on the types of gigs you’re qualified for, create profiles on job sites built for remote work like UpWork and Fiverr and get hustling!

But don’t stop there. Put yourself out there on social media and take advantage of the many groups and forums that exist for digital nomads. These pages are not only a great place to find your next gig, but also full of priceless tips on where to find unspoiled beaches, underground nightclubs, and unfettered access to WiFi.

grey laptop sitting on wooden table next to glasses, passport, map, walking stick and brown messenger bag. This is for a freelance writer or author with wanderlust seeking adventure and freedom

Step 2: Get Your Financial House in Order

As you search for a flexible job (or two), consider how much extra money you’ll need to support your lifestyle.

After all, nightly sunset spritzes, ’grammable seafood feasts, and aspirational AirBnBs can make a dent in almost any budget. 

So how much money can you expect to earn as a digital nomad?

Because digital nomads run the gamut of remote working from gig economy freelance photographers, to virtual assistant positions, to digital marketing professionals, to engineers, their incomes vary. Just like there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to working as an extended traveler, there’s no single salary expectation that covers the whole field.

That said, things look good for digital nomads compared to traditional workers.

 According to Flexjobs:5

  • 1 in 5 digital nomads earns between $50,000 and $99,999 per year
  • Nearly 40% pull in $75,000 or more
  • 49% of workers make the same or more money as they would have in-office.6

This is actually major when you consider that many digital nomads elect to spend time in locales with lower costs of living than urban metropolises.

If you follow your dream of living a nomadic life, you might even save thousands of dollars a year that could have gone to high rents, utility bills, or car insurance.7 (We’d take a beachside Mai Tai over an overpriced salad from the spot below the office building any day.)

shop luggage

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Step 3: Start Where You Are

The next step on your digital nomad journey should take place at home.

Take stock of the things that tie you to your current location and evaluate their significance to your life. Traveling light will save your back and your bank account, so consider what you’ll need as you embark on your journey. Sleek and stylish luggage? Yes. A padded laptop sleeve? Obvi. Extra baggage? No. 

  • Housing – If you need to, make plans with your landlord or building management company to end your lease or find a subletter to cover rent while you’re away. You don’t want to have to spend your ski lift money on an apartment you’re not living in.
  • Paperwork – Once you lighten your load, make sure your passport is current—most countries will require that it doesn’t expire within six months of your last travel date—and alert your bank about your travel plans. You will need a physical address, even as you float about. Put a hold on your mail (up to thirty days) or have it forwarded to a friend or relative (remember to buy them a souvenir).
  • Medical – Talk to your doctor about any vaccinations you might need, adventurer that you are. If you won’t be covered by an employer, consider biting the bullet for travel health insurance. It might set you back a few hundred dollars, but it will come in handy if you sample the wrong street food.8
  • Finances – Do your best to eliminate any outstanding debt so that your travels aren’t weighed down by stress. Cancel things you might not need, like your membership at the Barre studio or your subscription to the Wine of the Month Club, and cut back on extra expenses like dining out before you leave town.

Step 4: Pick Your First Destination

You’ve figured out your income stream, planned your first blog post, and scouted potential clients. Now you just need to figure out where in the world you’re going to go.

When you can work from anywhere, the opportunities are infinite—and sometimes deciding on your first destination can be daunting.

Remember that this is your digital nomad journey. You can and should pick a destination that aligns with your personal needs (budget, internet connection) and desires (tango classes, tapas bars).    

Do you crave solitude or a packed social calendar? Sun or snow? Bustling European avenues or sleepy South American beach towns? Do you want to try your luck conversing with locals in their mother tongue, or would you rather carouse with like-minded travelers in expat hubs?

Narrow down your list of dream locales by researching popular locales for digital nomads including:

  • Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Bali, Indonesia
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Mexico City, Mexico

You should weigh the cost of living, climate, and safety of your potential destinations when you make your decision, but don’t get in a panic about making the wrong choice. The best part about living as a digital nomad is that—unlike the tattoo you got after one too many Singhas on that fateful moonlit night in Bangkok—it isn’t permanent. You can roll up your beach towel, pack your bag, and head to the next place on your list whenever it suits you.

It’s also important to not be scared of starting small. Perhaps, a road trip to the next town is the perfect place for you to start this new nomadic lifestyle. If you do end up driving to a relatively nearby destination, be sure to check out our blog post all about the best podcasts for road trips! 

happy excited female digital nomad  with raised hands reading good news about business triumph

Ready, Jet Set, Go: How to Be a Digital Nomad with BÉIS

Now that you’re prepped on how to be a digital nomad, get ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime. A digital nomad lifestyle can be challenging, sure, but nothing could be more rewarding than exploring the world while nailing your career goals. Successful digital nomads combine work with play, passion with performance, and fantasy with reality. 

In short, they know that style and substance go hand-in-hand—and that organization is everything. 

Don’t let your travel gear slow you down as you follow your dreams. From sleek, durable rolling bags to passport holders, to on-the-go travel fanny packs, BÉIS brings you the best of form and function, keeping you chic, secure, and at the top of your game whether you’re en route to a treehouse office on the edge of Medellin or a sunset shoot in the heart of Santorini. 

Sources: 

  1. New York Times. How to Become a Digital Nomad. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/27/travel/how-to-become-a-digital-nomad.html?.?mc=aud_dev&ad-keywords=auddevgate&gclid=CjwKCAjwi9-HBhACEiwAPzUhHDdoOmPPDMKmemUrA2QBbxvvtCU1lOF02Q9spRO0TC7HWPHYzwUaAhoCYZ4QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
  2. Project Untethered. 15 Digital Nomad Statistics and Exciting Trends. https://www.projectuntethered.com/digital-nomad-statistics/BBC. Is the great digital-nomad workforce actually coming? https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210615-is-the-great-digital-nomad-workforce-actually-coming
  3. BBC. Is the great digital-nomad workforce actually coming? https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210615-is-the-great-digital-nomad-workforce-actually-coming
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